I met Carmen Tormo at the Dance Revolution studios in Sheffield with Jaleh Fallah. They were considering doing the JWAAD accredited bellydance teaching diploma and wanted to know more about it. They signed up for it and I enjoyed sharing Carmens journey through the course – and see how she has gone on to build on this and develop an international profile for herself. She taught at Fantasia last year, the JWAAD bellydance Summer school and has taught twice at my Borwick weekend ‘Shimmy Up North‘. Feedback from all her classes has been fantastic – I can highly recommend you try this session with Carmen.
How did you get into belly dance?
I have danced from a young age. I started off like most little girls with ballet and from there I did a bit of everything, like contemporary and flamenco. It was actually when I moved to the UK that I discovered bellydance! My first week at uni I was looking for activities to join and a friend suggested going to a bellydance class together. That was it, I was hooked. So much so that I ended up running the bellydance society for over two years!
Tell us a bit about your dance journey?
Bellydance wise, it all started off at uni. I auditioned to get into Ashay dance troupe run by Nisha Lall. Whilst I was in Ashay I trained in many styles with Nisha and got to perform a lot all around the UK. It’s been non stop since then. I discovered the UK bellydance scene, at first dancing as a hobbie and then turning into a full-time passion of mine. I went to as many haflas, workshops and festivals as I could to train and gain performance experience. I started off my own classes in Sheffield which turned out to be very popular and ended up being booked to teach workshops around the UK. I decided that if I was going to really go for it as a dance teacher I needed as much background
knowledge as I could get, so I contacted Kay Taylor about the JWAAD teaching diploma. This is where I realised just how much there is to know (and how little I knew!). I feel that I really got to understand this dance thanks to this course and also thanks to the Cairo trips that I went on with Kay. When I completed my teaching diploma I moved back home to Spain where I have made dance my full time job, teaching at Rosadela’s Oriental Dance School and travelling around Europe to festivals with her.
You have made dance your full time job – what does a normal ‘dancers day’ look like for you?
It actually includes much less dance than you would think!! A lot of my day takes place in front of a computer. I think people don’t realise how much it takes to be a full time dancer, it’s not all glitz and glam. There is so much admin work to do – emails, updating your website, keeping your social media platforms up to date with your life, editing your pictures, preparing new content, looking for new music, finances..etc etc. I do most of my dancing in the evenings, I do 2-3 hours of dance daily. I also get most inspired in the evenings so if I have to prepare a choreography or plan a workshop I tend to do it in the evenings. It’s a non-stop job really 24/7 and there’s no real scheduled times, if I get inspired at 2am I have to get up and dance it off!
Tell us about the competition you won.
I have won a few competitions now. Some in the UK, some in Spain and a couple in
Russia. I think the most nerve racking has been the Russian one. I was at Cairo Mirage with Rosadela and I entered two categories – one with live music and one with CD. If you’re on social media you know how good these Russian dancers are, they are breathtakingly beautiful, trully mesmerizing. I didn’t think I stood a chance, so I went on stage simply to enjoy myself and guess what – I won!! This past year with Rosadela I have trained very hard with her and polished my style and my look, so I feel this has really helped giving me the confidence to get on stage and simply breathe and enjoy myself!
You have studied belly dance in the UK and in Europe – what are the differences?
I feel that the main difference between bellydance in the UK and bellydance in Europe is that, in the UK there is more of a social aspect to it. There’s more of a “dancing as a hobbie” kinda vibe in the UK whilst in Europe a lot of the dancers train to “make it” in the bellydance world, which means training hard to keep up with the high standards set by the Russian and Ukranian dancers (including all the tricks,flicks and super flexibility). One thing that surprised me about Spain is that there are no haflas, everything is festivals. In the UK it’s the other way around, there are haflas pretty much every weekend. In Spain there are festivals every month with teachers coming from all around the world and competitions with top dancers as judges, so you get the opportunity to train with international stars on a monthly basis (if you have the finance to do so!). I personally like a bit of both, training hard and dancing my butt off at workshops and then having the social side with haflas where you can catch up with friends and have a relaxed boogie. Here is a video of Carmen performing in Russia.
What do you like to do to relax?
Funnily enough, dance can also be part of my relaxing days. I love going to the theatre to watch other dancers perform, especially flamenco which has always been a passion of mine. I also love live music, my brothers are musicians so I go to a lot of gigs – these inspire me too! If I’m trully relaxing (Sunday vibes style) then it would be either going to the cinema and enjoying some popcorn with a good film or having a Netflix session at home binge watching something and eating some yummy food!!
What is your star sign?
I’m a Gemini! The twins rule my life and I really do feel it!
What is your favourite colour and why?
I looooove yellow! I remember when I bought my first ever professional bellydance costume. I was at JoY and walked past the Farida stall
and saw this gorgeous yellow
fabric (which happened to be a beautiful Hanan two piece). It was love at first sight. Yellow quite literally brightens up my day. Also turquoise blue, it reminds me of the sea which is my second home (I’m from the coast so the sea has a very important role in my life). Yellow and blue are my colours – like the sun and the sea!
At Fantasia you are teaching ‘Fantasy Oriental Veil’ – can you tell us a bit about what to expect:
You can expect beautiful shapes and an oozey style that creates a beautiful oriental fantasy. We will learn to create that “wow” moment on stage when you use a prop in such a way that makes the audience go “oooh!”. That’s what I like to aim for! Creating magic on stage.
You are also chairperson of NADA (the UK magazine ’National Arabic Dance Association’). Tell us a bit about NADA and how people can find out more:
NADA is a great opportunity for dancers to be up to date with what’s happening with dance (in the UK and internationally). Members can
also enjoy the online tutorials we have from teachers from all around the UK and Ireland to drill different aspects of bellydance – from props, to zills to working with specific rhythms. We have more and more connections with European festivals which means members get discounts!! And most importantly our new festival with Farida Dance – Alba Orientale Festival in Edinburgh!! Last weekend of March 2020 you’ll be able to dance with Soraia Zaeid from Egypt, Rosadela (my mentor and inspiration!) from Spain, Yasmina of Cairo, Lorna of Cairo and a lot of the UK best teachers. NADA members get a discount!! So check out our timetable www.albaorientale.com
and join us for a weekend of dance.
What projects do you have planned that people might be interested in?
Alba Orientale Festival is my biggest project at the minute! I have many many plans for the NADA magazine – nationally and internationally, but these things need time and planning so you’ll have to keep an eye on the NADA site. I would also love to start a folkloric dance troupe – I have wanted to do so for quite a while now! So, keep an eye out on social media if this is something that interests you.
Lastly, what would you like to be doing in 5 years time?
I would love to be travelling around the world teaching dance and meeting dancers from every country! I would like for NADA to be a meeting point for bellydancers in the UK and internationally! Lastly, I would hope that in 5 years we’d be celebrating the 5th edition of Alba Orientale Festival, bringing lots of bellydance to the UK and the best teachers for everyone to learn from. Basically I hope bellydance takes over the world and unites all the bellydancers out there and that it becomes as popular as it once was